A recent Which? Magazine survey suggested that up to 5.1m British workers have failed to read their employment contract properly.
How many bosses don’t read or understand the contracts they are issuing?
Which? make some great suggestions about what employees should do, but what should the boss do?
1. Read your contract! Are you prepared to do all the things it says you will do (if the situation arises)? If not, you should consider changing it. Being ‘in breach of contract’ can be a big problem and making promises in writing you don’t intend to honour just documents your failure.
2. Check the handbook – If your contract refers to a handbook, make sure you read this too, as its terms will also be binding
3. Ask questions – Do you understand your contract? Are there grey bits you just ignore? Do your staff? Ask them if they have read it and know what it means – that can be a shock!
4. Issue the documents – Some bosses keep contracts in a locked drawer and don’t issue them. If they are no good, get them changed, if they are good you need them out there doing what you need them to do.
5. Keep copies of the signed terms – You may need to show someone had a copy to make sure you chase up for signed copies and keep them locked away.
The combination of employment law and HR “best practice”’ can have an interesting effect on an organisation.
At best, valuing the people underpins a successful and motivated organisation, and employment law compliance is not a challenge or an obstacle so much as a natural part of a bigger process of the enterprise’s success.
HR practitioners often dread employment tribunals – concerned about the time they take and, the costs. Yet line managers are often charmingly indifferent to the niceties of procedure and process in both grievance and discipline scenarios, which will radically affect the likely outcome of a tribunal case. It is natural for the ‘specialist’ to want to guide the process to ensure a technically good performance.
HR can be wonderful supporters, and sometimes even challengers, of the internal processes. But things can get out of hand in some organisations, and HR can shift from supporting the process to owning and then controlling it. This has the effect of disempowering managers, who then increasingly view disciplinary issues as “something HR handles”. A bad experience with an HR predecessor can leave line managers unwilling to report problems to HR, since they expect to be required to jump through needless hoops while their problems remain unsolved.
Line managers need support. So do staff. But where HR’s ‘welfare’ role is not kept clearly separate from the ‘enforcement’ role. Marking and keeping clear boundaries is essential.